OCA Thames Valley Group Meeting–31 May 2014

The day followed the usual format. Before lunch we looked at work from John, Eddy, Steve and the work in progress on my Assessment 1 for Documentary. I have selected a portion of each presentation for my report.

Work in progress feedback session

John presented 20 images from a Caribbean island, without text and arranged in a particular way. He said the the pictures were meant to be engaging “pretty” pictures. He was looking for our reaction to the set. The work was in progress and he wanted to make images that were individually striking. We found it difficult without context. We were looking for any sense of narrative. This is now very difficult to describe at a distance and it followed on from a previous assignment that I had not seen. Several members of the group saw several interesting groupings but it wasn’t until John revealed that the set was a response to the book “The Wide Sargasso Sea” and was produced as open work, (Sharon mentioned the work of Wolfgang Tilmans as being similar to the way that this work was presented). Some reactions of the group, memory, hope, desperation, relaxation, colonisation. John will continue the work and continue challenge us to find a narrative of some sort in the set.

I put out my images and explained about the brief for Local Communities. The group identified that it was a very disparate set. I explained that this was probably because I was involved with the group as a ‘participant observer’ as encouraged by the brief. I had still some more editing to do and I was looking to the group to find out what worked and which direction I should take the edit. Sharon said that there is often something very interesting going on in my work and I need to be able to see it and follow it  through.  She mentioned Eve Arnold’s film stills, not looking to document the whole thing, just the interesting moments and identified the transformation from person to character as an idea to work on.  Looking at future projects, go with a single purpose (no distractions) and concentrate on one theme. Below is the set that I showed:


I will discuss this further in the ‘Assignment 1’ section of my learning log as I make my final selection based on the advice and feedback from the group.

Steve showed work for DPP assignment 2. He chose pictures of castles on the three castle walk from Windsor to Winchester via Odiham. Also included other castles, Farnham Donnington, Ludgershall. Steve explained that he used film for the pictures and was using the zone system to measure the dynamic range of his images/scans/films. Steve also showed his submission for Assignment 1 which was the letters of the word “photography” seen in the environment. Interestingly, he chose a square format to present them which the group seemed to like.

Eddy showed some work related to his exercises in Gesture and Meaning. The particular exercise involved writing a character profile of yourself and then colleagues to write their assessment of your character produce 3 images that show your assessment and 3 that show other people’s assessment. Eddy showed us the profiles that the he had based his work on and then asked us to look at the images that he had taken. The discussion that  followed included the technical aspects of using a studio set up single handed, whether or not Eddy has succeeded in his objective (the general consensus was that he had done well).

Looking at the work of female photographers (afternoon session)

We started  the session with words that throughout our lives that we have associated with women. Soft, domestic, warm, loving etc.…

Sharon then put out some books and asked us to list the words that came into our minds when looking at the photographs in them. Unfortunately, I neglected to list the books on the table (the History of Women Photographers). My list included:

enigmatic, vulnerable, horrific, casual athletic, intense, aloof, twilight, relaxed, mercurial, strong, vivacious, sleazy, dangerous.

From the lists that we read out, the discussion moved onto observations on the pictures in the books. The women in the group 6 women to 5 men) seemed amazed by the number of pictures of naked women and the discussion moved along that route as to why this should be.

Holly felt that landscape photography was not really open to women or is unattractive to them because it was dominated by men. The discussion moved on to war photography by women and the idea that women had to produce more shocking and visceral images merely to compete withe men correspondents.

Sharon then introduced her experience at the “Fast Forward” group at Tate Modern. Her feeling is that women photographers are disadvantaged by the male dominance of   publishing and gallery ownership and she has the feeling that not many women aspire to be BIG in photography, preferring to get their validation internally rather than from outside. Holly mentioned Landscapes by Women (Facebook group) was also discussed. She felt that the interpretations were more delicate, with less strident colours. However, since returning home I have looked at this page and to be honest, I would not have known that these photographs were taken by  women. Or it may be that I just didn’t like the particular style of most of the images (over complicated compositions, too derivative)

The final exercise involved us looking at a picture by Cass Bird of a dark haired androgynous female (Jen in Overalls) to see if we could identify any “gendering” of the image. We concluded that the  model was chosen and photographed to be deliberately androgynous by her dress i.e. sexless. We could not decide if the breasts had been deliberately accented by being carelessly hidden by the loose fitting dungarees.

The next discussion revolved around the portrayal of women in films and TV effect women’s expectations of their role in the patriarchal society. The discussion followed tokenism, positive discrimination and the effect of these things on society. Eve Arnold…..” didn’t want to be a woman photographer but a photographer who is a women with the whole world in front of her camera”.

The discussion continued in an interesting way and went back and forth with lots of points of view expressed. The whole day’s discussion is recorded and stored on my PC for future reference.


This morning’s session has helped me to think about my current assignment and given me some ideas. This afternoons discussion has given me a feel for the way women photographers think about their role in the arts. I have made notes of some publications that I may want to take a closer look at:

  • The work of Claire Strand
  • Susan Bright, Auto Focus
  • Liz Wells, Viewfindings
  • The work of Wolfgang Tilmans

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